In front of UKIP’s election poster at the foot of white cliffs in St Margaret’s Bay, Kent on Tuesday this week, Nigel Farage asserted that immigration was the reason behind the loss of street play to Britain’s communities. “I want to live in a community where our kids play football of an evening and live in a society that is at ease with itself,” he said. His comments have been reported widely across the media including on the Channel 4 News site which carried some good comments from London Play in this debate.
Since he made this claim, residents who are organising street play in their neighbourhoods – some getting ready to play out this week or next – have voiced their views about what really stops children being free to play out safely, freely and regularly in their patch. We’ve written a letter to The Times and The Telegraph – both of which covered this story – to put Mr Farage straight and get across what residents on their streets know is true. Here’s what we said…..
Nigel Farage declares that the reason children don’t play football with their neighbours in the streets is because people are “ill at ease with levels of immigration in their towns” (“Let’s cut migration so children can play in streets, says Farage”, The Times 1 April). No one was ill at ease in the east Bristol street where children were playing out happily last Friday, scooting, chalking and skipping. Adult neighbours had organised a temporary road closure, allowing children to play safely in the street. Neighbours from different cultures and backgrounds came together to make their street a place for play and social contact.
Of course there are many streets where neighbours don’t know each other or have much contact, and this can be a barrier to overcome. But studies consistently show that the biggest barrier to children playing freely in their neighbourhood is traffic, which we have collectively allowed to encroach ever further into residential streets and public spaces. Ask any parent or carer and they will describe the speeding cars which stop them opening the door to let their children out to play.
More than 150 streets across the country have organised street play sessions in the last year. Residents in these streets want to live in a community where children play out safely and neighbours feel more connected. But they have a clearer view than Mr Farage about the barriers that need removing for this to happen. He demeans their achievements by linking his divisive political agenda on immigration with a false notion about what is needed for street play to flourish once again.